After eight years on the force, the Fortuna Police Department police dog will be retiring in the next few months and a new one will be trained to take over.
Sgt. Jason Kadle and Zorro -- who will be 10 years old by the time he retires -- have been partners since 2006 and the two have built quite a bond.
"I was one of the only officers to have a partner all the time and I knew that he would be there protecting me," Kadle said. "Other officers drive around by themselves but I always had Zorro. It will be different now."
Kadle said during the first week with Zorro they were trying to apprehend someone when the person ran into a motor home to hide and Zorro found him and brought him out.
"Another time there's was a guy in the attic and he wouldn't come out so Zorro went up and got him," Kadle said.
In addition to his duties as a police dog, Zorro would go to presentations at schools from Fortuna to McKinleyville to provide an icebreaker between the kids and law enforcement, Kadle said.
"Sometimes kids are timid and don't want to talk to officers because we can seem big and scary, but dogs can help bridge that gap because they are great icebreakers," he said. "I really enjoyed that part of the job."
Once Zorro officially retires, Kadle said he has the option to keep him.
"I think if I don't keep him, my wife and kids would kill me because he's been a part of our family for eight years now," he said. "But there's never been a question in my mind that I would keep him."
Chief William Dobberstein said Officer Maxwell Soeth has been selected as the new handler and the new police dog was chosen Wednesday. Soeth said Nordy -- the new dog -- is 11 months old and was trained in the Czech Republic in the area of work protection.
"Officer Soeth and the new dog will attend handler training in the Bay Area from March 24 to April 19," Dobberstein said. "Once the training is complete, we'll have a graduation/retirement ceremony for Zorro."
During training, Soeth and Nordy will be working on obedience training, handler protection, suspect apprehension and building and area searches.
"I'm excited to take on the responsibility and I look forward to a long career as a handler," Soeth said. "I worked with Zorro for four years as an agitator -- the guy that puts on the bite suit and then gets found -- and he's an all-around good dog. He's well-behaved and ready to work at a moment's notice."
At the city council meeting Monday, Fortuna Mayor Pro Tem Mike Losey congratulated Kadle and Zorro for their work and the impact they have had on the community.
Melissa Simon can be reached at 441-0508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.